View from the Chair

The view from these chairs is pretty good! Margreta Kuijper of the University of Melbourne, Australia, and Judy Walker take a conference break, with UNL math graduate student Jessalyn Bolkema (standing left), in Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada, and enjoy the Red Chair Experience Program provided by Parks Canada.

It’s been another wonderful and busy year for the department, as you’ll see while reading this newsletter. As has happily become the norm, we spent much of the early spring semester interviewing faculty candidates and hired three fantastic new tenure-track assistant professors; they joined our faculty this fall along with two new postdoctoral faculty fellows. Also in the spring we hosted a conference, “Recent Developments in Continuum Mechanics and PDEs,” in conjunction with our annual Rowlee Lecture, delivered by Professor Irene Fonseca of Carnegie Mellon University.

This fall, we had the opportunity to host two alumni: Brian Bares, a 1997 graduate of our department and president of Bares Capital Management, who delivered our inaugural Career Perspectives in Mathematics lecture, and W. Kim Austen, a 1977 graduate graduate of our department, who recently retired as president and COO of Nationwide Insurance and was here as part of the Nebraska Alumni Association’s Masters Week (see page 16). Our students and faculty benefited greatly from talking with these two outstanding people.

Our department continues to make its mark across the globe. In response to a recent survey, I learned that our faculty and students traveled abroad to conferences and to visit collaborators at least 55 times in 2015; this includes trips to give plenary talks at conferences in Mexico, Germany, Spain, Korea, Ireland, Nepal and Japan. We also have about 60 current international collaborations from all over the world, including collaborators in Bulgaria, Mexico, Italy, Turkey, the U.K., Japan, Canada, Spain, Germany, Poland, the Czech Republic, France, Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Sweden, India, Hungary, Finland and China.

Back home, our collaboration with Nebraska Global – a local company “founded on the idea that when nerds and money meet, amazing things can happen” – continues to grow. Our 2013 newsletter featured a story on long-time friends and alumni of our department, Josh Brown Kramer and Lucas Sabalka, who have been reunited as employees of Nebraska Global. With their help, and through the efforts of graduate chair Susan Hermiller, we have developed summer internship opportunities at Nebraska Global for our graduate students. I was pleasantly surprised to run into both Josh and Lucas at this year’s Math Day, where they were volunteering their time as math bowl moderators. And I’m pleased to say that next summer’s All Girls/All Math picnics will be hosted on the rooftop patio at the Nebraska Global office.

Inspired by the visits of Bares and Austen, and by our ongoing relationships with Brown Kramer and Sabalka, the department is in the initial planning stages of forming an Alumni Advisory Board. If you might be interested in volunteering your time for this, please do contact me.

The work we do – from providing scholarships and awards for our students, to hosting visitors and conferences, and to enabling our students and faculty to engage through their research on a global scale – would not be possible without your support. I sincerely thank our many alumni who generously responded to our Emeritus Faculty Fund campaign last fall, and our friends and alumni who have contributed to this and other funds throughout the year.

- Judy Walker